Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thai ex-PM, defends crackdown order

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrives at Parliament in Bangkok (May 2011) Mr Abhisit was prime minister when anti-government protests erupted on the streets of Bangkok

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Former Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has defended his order for live ammunition to be used against anti-government demonstrators two years ago.

Mr Abhisit told the BBC that armed protesters had fired grenades and caused acts of terror.

He said he would fight to prove his innocence of a murder charge arising from the protests, but that he would accept the court's verdict.

The protests left more than 90 people dead, both civilians and soldiers.

The centre of Bangkok was paralysed for weeks.

Mr Abhisit was prime minister when thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital in 2010 demanding his government step down.

Anti-government 'red-shirt' protesters outside the parliament in Bangkok on 7 April 2010 The protests in 2010 left more than 90 people dead

He told the BBC that government forces had "very little option" but to act when live fire was used against them.

"We tried to negotiate with the protesters, and they wouldn't accept any of the deals that we offered them," he said.

"Unfortunately we were facing a situation where they occupied the middle of the city... It was our duty to restore order, and that's what we were trying to do."

Mr Abhisit said he would fight to prove he was not guilty but added: "If, for whatever reason, the courts pass a guilty verdict, I will accept them. That's the way that things should be done."

The "red-shirt" protesters, many of whom supported ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra, occupied Bangkok's financial district in March 2010.

Violence flared in April when police tried to clear them from the area - after which they moved to the city's commercial heart.

They remained there until 19 May when armed government troops moved into the red-shirt camp, smashing through barricades. More than 90 people were killed over the course of the protest.

Elections held in July 2011 were then won by the party led by Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of the ousted prime minister.

Mr Abhisit, now the leader of the opposition, and his deputy are the first officials - government or military - to face charges over the deaths. Several red-shirt leaders are to be prosecuted on terrorism charges.

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